Hypocritical Violence 9/4/13

“Credibility” is Obsolete 

By Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

Lord have mercy, a half-century beyond the Cuban Missile Crisis and almost as many years beyond Vietnam, our erstwhile leaders are still mouthing stale clichés about “credibility.” Remember Dean Rusk saying we went eyeball to eyeball with the Soviets and they blinked? Of course the world almost ended, but never mind.

And to go back a little further into the too-soon-forgotten past, some historians surmise that Truman dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not to force an already forthcoming Japanese surrender, but to make ourselves more threateningly credible to the expansionist Soviets as the World War II wound down.

Credibility was the main motif of Secretary of State Kerry’s statement rationalizing possible military action against Syria. If we’re going to kill a few thousand non-combatants in the next few days or weeks, and it looks increasingly as if we are, could we not do it for some better reason than maintaining to the world, as if the world cared, that we are not a pitiful helpless giant?

What is it with my country? It is particularly painful to hear these valorous-sounding, but actually exhausted, toothless locutions from John Kerry, who began his political career with electrifyingly refreshing congressional testimony opposing the Vietnam War, a war pursued on the basis that if we did not maintain a credible presence in Southeast Asia, country after country would fall to the Commies, ultimately the Chinese Commies. Meanwhile the historical record of a thousand years showed that China had been Vietnam’s mortal enemy. Never mind.

Only a day before Secretary Kerry’s rationalizations, we listened to our first black president commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The truth-force of Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to hover above Barack Obama like a tired and angry ghost, because any person with half a brain could feel the cognitive dissonance between the president’s mealy-mouthed obeisance to the mythology of King’s non-violence, and the hellish violence soon to be visited upon Damascus from our cruise missiles. Mr. Obama, Mr. Kerry, surely you cannot have forgotten how steadfastly Reverend King stood against militarism, how he made the connection between inequality at home and the waste of foreign adventures.

Our missiles will unleash stupid violence. Unnecessary violence. Hypocritical violence. 

Stupid violence because it extends yet further the hatred that so many in the Middle East must feel for our crudely righteous meddling.

Unnecessary violence, because the resolution of the civil war in Syria will not come one whit closer on account of our missiles—even if we kill Assad. There are now too many conflicts folded into the Syrian tangle, the Shia-Sunni conflict, the Iran-Israeli conflict, even the proxy Russian-American conflict. 

Hypocritical violence, in view of the U.S. military’s own indiscriminate use of depleted uranium in the Iraq war—and our government’s eagerness to look the other way when Saddam, back when he was our ally, gassed Kurds and Iranians.

Hypocritical violence also because we Americans rationalize our looking to violence as the “solution” to conflict by hiding behind the fig-leaf that gas is so much worse than our other well-trod paths of war-making.  It is not gas that is uniquely horrific. It is war itself.

All this being so, there is zero loss of credibility in admitting that there is no military solution to this war, which the world already knows.

When will my country begin to enhance its credibility for “living out the true meaning of its creed”? The worldwide equality of humans, their equal right to life and liberty and happiness, is fundamentally threatened by Orwellian political shibboleths like “credibility,” especially coming from a nation that possesses vast piles of weapons of mass destruction that could make death by Sarin gas look like a family picnic. This kind of credibility is incredible. 

The Syrian impasse is horribly difficult, but at least we don’t have to ham-fistedly make it worse. There are so many creative things we could do besides throwing around our power. First of all, restraint itself can be a creative act, when lack of restraint, such as what we are contemplating, leads nowhere but further into chaos. Don’t just do something, stand there. Or at least stand for credible, consistent values.

Stand against reflexive unilateral military posturing. Stand for the encouragement—and funding—of unarmed U.N. Peacekeeping troops going into Syria in large numbers to create buffer zones between adversaries. Stand for supporting the creation of a parallel Syrian government-in-exile that could make halting steps toward processes of truth and reconciliation when the violence finally exhausts itself.  Stand for giving ten times more resources to career diplomats in our State Department, in order that a larger number of people get trained not only in foreign languages and cultures, but also in the arts of diplomatic conflict resolution.

We have forgotten the kind of credibility slowly but steadily built up by Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary-General of the U.N., the first person to undertake endless, patient shuttle diplomacy as a better solution than war.  Hammarskjold lived a consistent, impartial ethic bent upon steadfastly reconciling the interests of nations with the interests of the human family. Oh that my country could be led by stout hearts like King and Hammarskjold. They were giants of credibility. 

Winslow Myers leads seminars on the challenges of personal and global change,  is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” serves on the advisory board of the War Prevention Initiative, and writes for PeaceVoice.  http://www.peacevoice.info/


Can the Fringe be Wrong? 9/4/13

When the Good News is Chilling

A Fringe “God I Hope I’m Wrong” reportfringe logo

U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama Administration won’t intercede with states who legalize marijuana for recreational use.

At first glance this sudden about face on marijuana seems to good to be true, and of course it is.   First off, there is reason to doubt Obama’s sincerity on this issue.  Second, not that much has changed at the federal level on essential principles of individual and states rights.  Finally, and most chilling, it indicates a change of focus for federal prosecutors and enforcement.

To be clear, Holder didn’t call a press conference and announce, “our bad, turns out pot’s not so dangerous, and the federal government really shouldn’t be making decisions like this for states and individuals.”  He didn’t offer to release federal cannabis and med can prisoners.

Instead, he phoned the governors of the states which legalized recreational ganja and said that, as long as they had a plan to control the demon weed, the feds weren’t going to send troops to take their capitals.  Then he had a minion send a short memo to federal prosecutors telling them it was no longer policy to bust cannabis businesses unless they met other criteria.  The criteria are the usual thing: no weed for kids; no driving while shit-faced; no money for drug lords or cartels; no sales across state lines; no guns and ganja; no growing or using on federal lands (yep, that’s right, the Forest Service cops can still bust you for smoking pot in your tent.)  The message is clear: you can play with this as long as you behave but Nanny is still watching you.  There is no net loss of federal control in this move, which prevented the fed from having to openly stand off with the states.

This is far from a “get out of jail free” card; it is also far from an admission that the feds were wrong in Wickard v. Filburn, that the Commerce Clause doesn’t allow the feds to control intra-state commerce.  It is very far from an acknowledgement that a free society doesn’t regulate the behavior of its people without a compelling reason.  Indeed, my fear is that this sudden loss of interest in pot smokers is due a wide new opportunity for the federal government to busy its agents and prosecutors, one that makes the wealth created by drug prohibition seem like peanuts.

The Obama administration has sent mixed messages on ganja before, saying prosecutors wouldn’t intercede in medical cannabis in states that legalized it.  Still, agents pulled people out of their beds, took forever patient records and computers, sent proprietors to prison.  Holder’s announcement carries a caveat that still leaves plenty of room for the feds to change their minds, should their position strengthen.  There are still perilous waters to navigate in the IRS code, which is often used to drain successful med can distributors.  Banks are still unlikely to want cannabis dollars, at least not openly (a buck is a buck, after all).

Unlike some, I don’t think it was the pressure of a change in thinking of the population, who have become more accepting of cannabis in spite of billions of dollars of government money going to convince them otherwise.  The feds are rarely afraid of voters, and the bulk of the federal government goes on regardless who is in office.

I don’t think the feds were afraid of a showdown with the states as some states-rights activists do.  The Civil War was yesterday; today the feds would simply cut off the flow of life-giving federal dollars which allow states to run schools, prisons, pay cops and social workers and all the other tools of “serving” the masses, as well as building roads and other infrastructure projects.  The states might talk back, and smoke a little pot now, but we all know who Nanny is.

I think Obama is abandoning the drug war because it is no longer profitable, and it has become very messy.  The main problem with drugs is there is a physical substance that has to be moved, watched over, handled.  Much better would be something you didn’t have to move or touch.  It’s what we’ve all become familiar with, we buy things, and pay for them, with 1’ and 0’s.  The internet, and all the new crimes most people didn’t know were crimes, and the best thing is, the states are left out of it entirely.  Already there is evidence that the “security state” is costing much more than approve budgets, but it’s difficult for Congress to follow the money.  This is a new opportunity, and it’s going to restructure the federal government as it’s restructured consumer habits, health care, and especially finance.

Maybe your old Fringe Editor is over-reacting; probably it’s just a sea change in what “we the people” want, or an earnest desire on the part of the administration to empower the states to act like adults on this issue.  Maybe the feds have seen the advantage of having the population Irie on the Herb.  Maybe.  I sure hope so.

Good luck!

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